Meet Monty, the newest Age-Well Project dog. This little pup has taken over my life this week, so this blog post will be short and sweet. We’ve blogged before about the Age-Well benefits of dog ownership, and devoted a chapter in our book to the subject.
Of course, dogs mean walks, and daily walking is the lynchpin of our Age-Well exercise routine. Taking a dog to the park or green space means health benefits for you as well as your pup. Monty’s not old enough for walks yet, but it won’t be long and I can’t wait to introduce him to our local parks and river walks. Research shows that older dog owners move more than non-owners, unsurprisingly. And a study of three million Swedes aged over 40 found that dog owners had a lower risk of death from cardio-vascular disease and other causes during a 12-year follow up period.
There is a downside to all this exercise, however. A recent report by the University of Pennsylvania revealed that the number of bone fractures related to dog-walking has doubled in recent years among the over-65s. The research team don’t want to stop us walking our dogs, but they do want us to consider our safety when we’re out walking. So that means strong, supportive footwear and using a sturdy leash: many of the fractures reported were of arms and shoulders when owners were walking dogs on a lead.
“Everyday actions mean everyday consequences,” the researchers said. “While it is important for medicine to sometimes focus on the rarer but devastating conditions such as cancer and heart attacks, we also have to remember that understanding and improving the little things in life can have a dramatic, positive effect.”
I love the extra exercise that owning a dog brings into my life but the greatest benefit, as far as I’m concerned is the companionship. Stroking a pet has been found to raise levels of oxytocin – aka the ‘love hormone’ and lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Although constantly clearing up little puppy ‘accidents’ and making sure the puppy and our older dog get along, isn’t exactly lowering my cortisol levels at the moment!
All the puppy playtime required means that there’s not much time for cooking in my kitchen at the moment. So interesting salads with punchy dressings are the order of the day. Bitter leaves, like the chicory in this recipe, help reset our palate to resist sweet flavours. Bitterness also seems to help us eat less. Taste receptors in the gut signal to our brain to decrease appetite when they encounter bitterness, whereas when we consume sweet foods they tell the brain to ‘keep it coming’!
BITTER LEAVES AND BAGNA CAUDA DRESSING (serves 4 as a side dish)
- 6 mini chicory or endive
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs chopped chives (or another soft green herb)
For the dressing:
- 4tbs olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 10 anchovy fillets (rinsed if packed in salt) roughly chopped
- 1 tbs red wine vinegar
Pour 1 tbs of olive oil well onto a plate and season well. Cut the chicory or endive in half top to tail and dip in the oil. Griddle, grill or BBQ until softened.
Make the dressing by blending all the ingredients. Drizzle over the warm vegetables, sprinkle on herbs and serve.